Carpentry is considered the most versatile construction trade—carpenters are the only tradespeople exposed to the entire construction process, and it is often the carpenters who go on to become contractors, organizing and supervising other tradespeople on a job site. The main type of training necessary to become a carpenter is through an apprenticeship, and this is how most carpenters learn the trade. But carpenters also need to know things like how to read blueprints, technical math, and even business skills. To learn these skills, many students choose to start their training by earning a certificate or a degree.
There are three main types of schools that offer carpentry programs:
Technical or trade schools
Technical and trade schools provide job training for students who wish to enter a trade like carpentry, automotive maintenance and repair, plumbing, and so on. The focus of these programs is to provide students with the skills they need to do the job, and students can expect to spend a good amount of time in a laboratory or on an actual job site. Most technical and trade schools offer both certificates and associate’s degrees.
Community colleges are two-year colleges that offer associate’s degrees and prepare students to enter an apprenticeship program. The main difference between the programs at technical schools and community colleges is that community college programs are more academic. To earn a degree, students at community colleges typically must complete general education courses such as English, math, and social science. Credits earned in an associate’s degree program can later be transferred to a four-year university.
Union-affiliated training centers
Trades unions, such as the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, also run their own apprenticeship training programs. Students in these programs spend most of their time working on the job, with a minimum amount of time (e.g., one week every three months) spent in the classroom. These programs introduce students to what it is like to be a union carpenter, and during the apprenticeship students are often eligible for union benefits, including higher wages and health insurance. In general, union apprenticeship programs for all trades are highly competitive because they often lead to the best job opportunities. A carpentry apprenticeship program typically takes about three or four years to complete, with wages increasing as students gain experience. To find out more about these training centers, contact your local carpenters’ union.
Depending on where you live, more than one of these options may be available. To decide which one is right for you, contact the schools, speak to the admissions representatives, and take a tour if possible. By doing your research, you will be able to figure out which program will best prepare you for the future.
Ranken Technical College. Carpentry and building construction technology.
Seattle Central Community College. Carpentry program curriculum.
Mid-Atlantic Carpenters’ Training Centers. Apprenticeship program